NELSONVILLE — Saturday night’s Region 19 final between Ironton and Ridgewood was indeed a battle of wills with the Tigers smashmouth physical running game against the Generals preferring the spread.
Haunted by missed opportunities Ridgewood fell behind 21-7 at the half and couldn’t rally in a 24-14 loss in front of a standing room crowd at Boston Field.
"We had some chances early and didn’t capitalize and that really came back to bite us," Ridgewood coach John Slusser said. "Ultimately they just beat on us physically and took it to us."
The Generals took the opening kickoff and drove right down the field against the vaunted Tiger defense and scored on a 4 yard run by Deontae Brandon with 7:06 left in the opening quarter.
Ironton lost a fumble on its first possession but a drop on third down forced a Ridgewood punt and two plays later Ohio State recruit Reid Carrico went 55 yards for a score to knot the score at 7.
Once again a third down drop, which may have well went the distance for a score ended a Wood drive.
"We haven’t dropped balls all year and tonight we had a few of them," Slusser said.
Again Ironton pounced converint another drive for a score when Cameron Deere went in from 30 yards out to make it 14-7 early in the second quarter.
The lead grew to 21-7 on a 5 yard run by Gage Salyers before it looked like Ridgewood would seize momentum going into the locker room.
A short Ironton punt set up Ridgewood at the Tigers 17 in the final minute of the half.
However Ironton held on downs to maintain a two score lead.
"They just took it to us in the first half," Slusser said. "I was proud of the way we came out and battled in the second half. "
Ridgewood got to within 21-14 when Gabe Tingle snuck in from the 1 with 3:14 left in the third period.
On the Tigers next possession Ridgewood was able to force a punt that. The Generals failed to catch and when all was said and done a 63 yarder by Avery Book pinned Ridgewood at its own 1.
"That was just huge because I felt like we had the momentum at that point," Slusser said.
As a result of the field position being flipped Ironton took a short Ridgewood punt and eventually Book nailed a 34 yard field goal to cap the scoring.
Ironton pounded out 281 yards on the ground while attempting just 4 passes, all in the second half. Carrico finished with 140 markers on 21 carries while Salyers added 86 on an identical 21 totes.
"Hopefully the younger kids learned a lot from this experience, " Slusser said.
Ironton harassed Tingle all night limiting the talented sophomore to 118 yards passing on 10 of 25 and 59 yards rushing on 18 carries. Senior Kaden Smith added 39 yards on the ground. Dalton Patterson had 4 grabs for 47 yards and Koleten Smith had 3 catches for 39.
"These seniors were such an awesome group to be around," Slusser said.